The Cardinals finished with a losing record in 2016, but believe they can bounce back quickly and revert to contender status next season. Free agency will be key, as several of the team’s starters are scheduled to hit the open market. The Cardinals’ front office has plenty of decisions to make as free agency beckons on March 9. We’ll break down each position as it draws near.
Free agent primer: Quarterback
Scheduled free agents:
Analysis: Palmer’s performance dipped in 2016 compared to his near-MVP campaign the season prior, but some of the statistical regression had to do with subpar play from the offensive line and wide receivers. He is one of the oldest quarterbacks in the NFL, but Palmer played well down the stretch and his arm strength didn’t noticeably decrease, which gives hope for 2017.
There was some anxiety as Palmer contemplated retirement earlier this offseason, but he’s back and hoping to lead the Cardinals on another playoff run. The team has gone 35-17-1 in Palmer’s tenure as the starting quarterback, and while the window is closing, he is the clear-cut best option at quarterback for 2017.
Stanton will enter the final year of his contract as the stable backup option in case of injury. He went 1-0 as a starter last season, helping the Cardinals beat the 49ers when Palmer was out with a concussion. Dysert’s re-signing is a formality and he will return in hopes of securing a roster spot.
The Cardinals still need a quarterback of the future, but free agency almost certainly will not be the avenue to find one. Between Palmer and Stanton, there is more than $28 million of cap money already tied up at the position, and it’s not tenable to add another high-priced veteran to the mix.
The draft is the only realistic option if the Cardinals want to add a player to possibly replace Palmer in 2018.
Notable past free agent quarterback signings: Stanton (2013); Derek Anderson (2010); Kurt Warner (2005); Shaun King (2004); Boomer Esiason (1996); Jim McMahon (1994); Steve Beuerlein (1993).